Risi Competizione 24 Hours of Le Mans Pre-Race Preview

Race Public Relations

Barbara J. Burns
BurnsGroup PR
barbara@burnsgrouppr.com
Telephone: +1 770-329-7134

Risi Competizione

Anna Lenzi
alenzi@risicompetizione.com
6100 Southwest Freeway
Houston, Texas 77057 USA
Telephone: +1 713-772-3868

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Houston, Texas (September 14, 2020)
American race team, Risi Competizione, is one of the few U.S.-based teams competing at this week’s rescheduled 88th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race, September 17-20. The Ferrari team may be American but it will be piloted this year by a full French driver line up.

The No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro entry will be comprised of Le Mans’ hometown hero and former Le Mans class winner, Sébastien Bourdais; 12-time Le Mans competitor from Toulouse, Olivier Pla; and Aubenas, France native and Bentley factory driver, Jules Gounon, who made his Le Mans debut last year with the Risi squad. The No. 82 red Ferrari 488 GTE previously only competed at this year’s running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.

Pla, a 38-year-old from Toulouse, France is competing in IMSA with Mazda Motorsports. He was this year’s pole winner and finished second at the 24 Hours of Daytona and seventh at the recent 6-hour race at Road Atlanta. Pla has raced consistently in both IMSA and FIA WEC since 2012 and raced every year at Le Mans since 2008 (12 times) with a highest finish of second in the LMP2 class with Oak Racing. He drove the past four years at Le Mans in GTE-Pro with the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT with a highest finish of fourth in 2016.

Bourdais, 41, is a four-time open wheel (CART) champion and 2016 GTE-Pro class Le Mans winner and driving for the Risi Ferrari team for the first time. The native of Le Mans is a 13-time competitor at the annual twice-around-the-clock endurance race at the Circuit de la Sarthe where he’s had an additional four podium finishes. He’s also won the 24 Hours of Daytona race twice, had two second-place finishes and third place earlier this year after competing a total of 11 times. Additionally, he’s collected victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, both in 2015. He’s currently racing in IMSA in the JDC-Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi.

Gounon, a 25-year-old millennial from Aubenas, France and son of former Le Mans driver Jean-Marc Gounon, already has quite an endurance record to his name. The current Bentley M-Sport driver won the Bathurst 12 Hour race earlier this year and also has a victory at the 24 Hours of Spa in 2017. Starting in karting in 2010 at age 15, the young Gounon, moved into single-seaters and Porsche Carrera Cup before advancing to ADAC GT Masters and the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. He made his Le Mans debut with Risi last year where the team finished 11th in GTE-Pro class. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain and has raced in IMSA, GT World Challenge Europe and VLN in 2020.

The livery for this year’s Risi Competizione Le Mans car is the result of an internal competition among art students at the prestigious ens aama Paris (École nationale supérieure des arts appliqués et des métiers d’art). The winners of the 2020 livery design are Augustin de Montardy and Aristide Renault, whose design was translated to the Ferrari 488 shape to create the 2020 livery.

The Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione team, known for their stellar crew, will compete this year at Le Mans for the 16th time since 1998 this year. The legendary team’s record in the famous race includes three victories, in 1998 with the Ferrari 333 SP, and 2008 and 2009 in the Ferrari 430 GT, and an additional five podiums. The respected over 50-year-old Ferrari Owner’s Club of France, Club Ferrari France, has collaborated with Giuseppe Risi once again for this year’s Le Mans race and is proud of this year’s all-star French driver line-up.

Olivier Pla, driver No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
You’ve competed at Le Mans 12 times, including the past four with the Ford GT GTE-Pro team. You’ve finished on the podium once and in the Top 5 a couple additional times. What do you find most challenging about the Le Mans race? What do you like best?

“I would say that Le Mans chooses you, but on top of that it’s a 24H sprint race, especially in GTE-Pro. Everything needs to be perfect on a driver side and on the team side; a small mistake and you never come back if you were in the position to win.

“I actually like many things, the intensity of this race, the qualifying, the night, and the track itself is so unique and fast.”

This will be your first time driving for the Risi Competizione team after competing against them in recent years. What are your thoughts about the team and getting the call to come race with Risi and their success at this huge and important race?
“I actually know the team from the outside but will work with them for the first time this week. The Covid situation made our plans for testing almost impossible unfortunately, but I already know very well Rick (Mayer – Team Engineer) and Gary (Holland – Team Manager), so it will make the things easier for me. Giuseppe’s team has an incredible success and knowledge so it will help to overcome our lack of preparation for this event!”

You are part of a full French driver line-up and again associated with the Ferrari Owner’s Club of France through Risi. Tell us about your feelings and pride about representing France this way.
“It’s an honor to represent the Ferrari Owner’s Club of France and I give thanks to Alexandre Lafond and Giuseppe Risi for this opportunity.”

Tell us about your two co-drivers?
“Although I’ve never driven with either of them, with Seb, we know each other very well as when we were still kids our Dads were racing together in the Renault 5 Cup. I’m really happy to share the car with him as everyone knows how fast and experienced Seb is! Jules is a rising star for sure, and a super fast driver. Look at what he already did wining Spa 24H and Bathurst, two of the most demanding races in the world of endurance.”

This year not only has the race date been changed but there will be no fans. Le Mans is usually full of fans and this year undoubtedly would have been amazing with both French fans and the Ferrari Tifosi cheering for you. Share how you feel about no activities for the fans like the driver’s parade or scrutineering and no fans at the track.
“Unfortunately, it’s a big shame. The situation we are living now is really bad for the sports in general and I hope we can go back to a normal way of living in the world very soon. We all want to see fans able to come back and see what they like the most and us racing as before!”

Sébastien Bourdais, driver No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
This will be your 14th year to race at Le Mans, starting back the first time in 1999. You’ve competed in both LMP1 and the past three years in GTE-Pro with the Ford GT GTE-Pro team, including a victory in 2016. What does it take to win at Le Mans?

“Well, I’m one in 14 so I’m not sure I have the recipe! Jokes aside, these days it takes a perfect race, from the drivers, the crew and everybody involved and some luck with slow zones and safety cars. That is obviously very different from what we are used to in the States where the outcome usually is decided towards the very end. At Le Mans, any time lost is lost and nothing is given back, which puts a lot of pressure on everyone all race long.”

This will be your first time driving for the Risi Competizione team after competing against them in recent years. What are your thoughts about the team and getting the call to race with Risi and their success at this huge and important race?
“I have to say I was a little surprised but also very honored when Mr Risi called me. It is a fairly small team, but their track records speak for themselves and the relationship the team have with Ferrari ensures we will have top equipment to contend and try to win the race.”

You did a brief test day in the Ferrari 488 GTE in Texas before the car was shipped to France. What did you think about it and how do you feel going in to this year’s race?
“It was a short test in very difficult conditions with heavy rain at MSR, which is a pretty bumpy track, but I had a great time and found the car extremely well behaved. The grip was surprisingly high and the car was quite predictable. I am therefore very much looking forward to driving it at Le Mans.”

You are part of a full French driver line-up and associated with the Ferrari Owner’s Club of France through Risi. Tell us about your co-drivers and your feelings about representing France this way.
“Jules and Olivier are very professional and quick drivers. I never had the chance to drive with Olivier in the same car, but I have watched him for many years now and I know what a quick and reliable driver he is. As for Jules, he is young but already very established. Winning the Bathurst 12H is no joke and I am sure he will be a great contributor to the team effort, especially since he already has a year of experience with the car and team at Le Mans in 2019.

“The French touch highlights the fact that Le Mans is a very important and significant race in France and for the French people. The enthusiasm of everybody involved is quite high and particularly from the Ferrari French Club!”

What is your favorite part of the race and of the circuit? What’s the most challenging?
“I have always been a big fan of the ‘new section’, which stretches from the Porsche Esses to the Bugatti track. It is one of the most daring places in the world!”

This year not only has the race date been changed but there will be no fans. Le Mans is usually full of fans and this year undoubtedly would have been amazing with both French fans and the Ferrari Tifosi cheering for you. Share how you feel about no activities for the fans like the driver’s parade or scrutineering and no fans at the track.
“It is obviously very sad and I really wish the ACO had been allowed to proceed with the plan they had spent so much time putting together (limited number of spectators divided in villages). Unfortunately, the authorities have decided otherwise and I guess we have to be happy that we are allowed to race.”

Jules Gounon, driver No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 LM GTE-Pro:
Last year was your first time competing at Le Mans, something you’ve dreamed of your whole life with your father having raced at Le Mans many times. How was your experience both racing at Le Mans for the first time and with the Risi Competizione team?

“It was amazing to be able to compete for the first time in Le Mans with such a legendary team as Risi Competizione. I learned a lot from the team and my teammates and came away from Le Mans on Sunday with a lot of knowlendge and experience of how the race was going.”

You are part of a full French driver line-up and again associated with the Ferrari Owner’s Club of France through Risi. Tell us about your feelings and pride about representing France this way.
“First of all, it’s always special for a French man to be able to race in Le Mans. So, to imagine racing with my two French teammates and associated with the French Ferrari Club France is such a privilege. I hope we will put on a good show for all of the French fans of Risi and Ferrari.”

Have you ever driven with either of your co-drivers…what do you know about them?
“Obviously we are not from the same generation (joking). I’ve always been a big fan of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and followed Seb as a spectator when he was racing for Peugeot and Olivier when he was racing for Oak Racing. It’s quite an accomplishment for me to be racing next to them as I only started go karting in 2010.”

This year is very different with the global pandemic. How has that affected your racing career and your life this year?
“The year started amazingly with the victory of the 12 Hours of Bathurst, which was followed by a long break due to the pandemic. I enjoyed some free time in my home town cutting trees and getting in shape for Le Mans. Obviously the Covid-19 gave us now a really tight schedule with racing nearly every weekend but we are not going to complain and I cannot wait to be back in my racing seat.”

This year not only has the race date been changed but there will be no fans. Le Mans is usually full of fans and this year undoubtedly would have been amazing with both French fans and the Ferrari Tifosi cheering for you. Share how you feel about no activities for the fans like the driver’s parade or scrutineering and no fans at the track.
“I was really looking forward for this part of the 24H, especially with Seb and Olivier, who are superstars for the French fans. But that’s the way it is and I hope we will give the best awareness during the weekend to share with the fans the experience of Le Mans.”

What would you say is the most important thing for you to concentrate on for this year’s race?
“I think we all have to concentrate on doing a clean race, staying out of trouble and avoiding mistakes as much as possible. Getting through a very unusual long night will be a key point to be in contention Sunday morning. And then as usual, Le Mans will choose its winners.”

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione Race Engineer:
It’s a very different year at Le Mans with an abbreviated schedule and no test day. Share your thoughts on how you have gone about preparing for this year’s race.

“Preparation is only marginally different. The test time is so condensed. We’ll need to make pretty efficient use of the track time. We need to make a seat for the drivers, at the track, which is not ideal.”

What are your top priorities for the numerous practice sessions and time on track on Thursday and Friday?
“We need to make sure the seat and inserts work for all three drivers; it’s a long race to not be comfortable. We need to find a setup that all three can drive fast and that’s never an easy thing. As always, we need a good balanced setup that all the drivers are happy with.”

You have three drivers who have never raced together and only one has competed in a Ferrari 488. How do you go about getting the drivers prepped for a huge race like Le Mans?
“We sent them a driver’s handbook which has some detail on all the controls, settings and adjustment. It’s a lot to learn in a short time. We’ll go over and over that starting when they all arrive. All three are skilled endurance drivers so I think we’ll get there by Saturday.”

What’s it going to take to win in the GTE-Pro class this year?
“The car needs to be competitive. The drivers need to be fast and clean. We can’t spend any extra time in the pits and the drivers can’t make any mistakes on track or get involved in another cars mistake. There’s a lot of luck required to win Le Mans.”

For race information, please visit lemans.org.